Veteran Uses IT Certification to Accelerate Career

by Janet Pinkerton | Jul 04, 2012
Derek LeMay wanted to leverage his five years as a Marine Corps IT system administrator into a civilian career, but found that earning an associates degree at a local Florida community college wasn't getting him where he wanted to go fast enough.

So in late 2011, LeMay enrolled in New Horizons Learning Centers of Orlando's accelerated IT certification track. The training and the certifications ultimately helped LeMay land jobs with not one, but two veteran-friendly employers.

"IT certification was a much faster path to becoming employable," says LeMay, now a technical support engineer for Symantec Corp., a corporate registry supporter of CompTIA's Troops to Tech Careers initiative.

In the military, LeMay was an aviation information systems specialist stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma, AZ. Having retired from the Marines in 2008, LeMay was able to use his Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits to earn the vendor-neutral CompTIA A+, CompTIA Network+ and CompTIA Security+ certifications aligned with the Department of Defense Directive 8570.

"Attending New Horizons was a great decision," LeMay says. "The staff there assisted me every step of the way — from becoming certified, to resume preparation, to employment opportunities."

Career Advisor Lisa Manzi of Career Visions in Orlando remembers LeMay as one of the first New Horizons Orlando veteran students she helped place in a job. LeMay landed his first job at NetApp, as a storage support technician, but he was determined to secure a higher position. So he worked six months at NetApp before interviewing with the Orlando office of Symantec. "Now he loves his job, absolutely loves it," says Manzi.

IT Certifications Get Noticed

LeMay's CompTIA certifications helped him secure and pass the technical interview with Symantec's engineers. Darrell Adams, technical manager for Symantec Corporation, explains that his company looks for IT certifications to see if job applicants have the technical abilities the company needs.

"Derek, when he sat down, he pretty much blew our technical interview away," said Adams, adding that the engineers were impressed by his command of networking and multiple operating systems, and his ability to easily answer their questions. "In fact, he came in on a Thursday, and we offered him the job that Friday. It was that quick."

Says LeMay, who hopes to earn the CompTIA Linux+ and CompTIA Storage+ certifications, as well as Cisco CCNA: "I believe the certifications I've already obtained have given me the opportunity to get this job and also will continue to help me in the future."

Symantec Supports Troops to Tech Careers

LeMay is among the many veterans Symantec has hired for its engineering and technical support positions. Symantec promotes job openings to veterans through, military transition assistance programs, and career fairs targeting veterans with security clearance.

"One of our favorite ways to connect with veterans is through Troops to Tech Careers. We take pride in supporting veterans as they return home from their military assignments," says Ellen McLatchey, Symantec's global director of diversity and inclusion. "We know that veterans participating in Troops to Tech are eager to contribute and have the skills and competencies needed to succeed at Symantec."

The computing occupation consistently ranks among the top 10 fastest-growing occupations in the United States.

"Any organization that helps to develop technical skills is very valuable to us. Couple that with the opportunity to support our vets and we feel honored to support this organization," says McLatchey. "Supporting Troops to Tech Careers is rewarding to us on many levels."

Command and Confidence

LeMay is garnering notice for his skills providing phone support to Symantec's global enterprise IT customers. Adams praised LeMay's detailed follow-up with customers, his ability to ask customers the right questions about their IT problems, and his ability to explain to customers why he's asking those questions.

"When Derek's talking to customers, he makes them feel good, and that's a very important piece," says Adams. "That's actually probably a bigger piece than having a really strong technical background."

Adams believes that LeMay's confidence and command in customer conversations stems from his military service. "I've seen it not only in the people we hire from the military but I've also seen it in my own personal life," says Adams, citing his brother (a Marine) and son (an Army veteran) as examples.

LeMay doesn't let challenges or difficulties stop him. "He's going to go ahead and tackle it and push forward," says Adams. "That's what we see from the military people we hire."

For his part, LeMay is grateful. "It's great to have a job that's well-paying, and, coming from where I was in unemployment, it's very humbling."

He sees himself in IT for a long time — "It's growing, and I'd like to grow with it." — and encourages fellow veterans to try a tech career.

"It's never too late to transition from military to the IT world," he says. "Never give up."

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